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LETTER: Boat-launch parking should be free in Orillia

'The parking is usually free when you pay to use the boat launches elsewhere, and that’s the way it should be,' says letter writer
USED GM 2022-09-26 grey sky over boat launch joella
A grey sky over the boat launch at the Port of Orillia is a sure sign of autumn.

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a story titled 'Boaters visiting Orillia could soon face new trailer parking fees,' published April 1.

I’m writing to you on behalf of many anglers and boaters and to let you know that I am opposed to the extra parking fees that Orillia council is considering. 

I feel that it is not appropriate and it seems like a big deterrent to many of us for the privilege to enjoy our nearby lakes.

Our lakes shouldn’t be just for the wealthy to enjoy.

I am an angler who had become angered because of what we experienced during the past couple of years with “COVID precautionary measures” at boat launches, including the outrageous fees charged for non-residents using the boat launches in Orillia and the time limit that was put on parking on weekends.

In the beginning of that time, it seemed that in order to use the boat launches in Orillia, during that time, we would have had to pay $50 to use the boat launch — per day — and another $50 to park. But only for two hours. That’s right! There was only a two-hour allowance to park!

I mean, who could have enjoyed fishing in less than two hours? And for $100?

It really seemed like it was more of a price gouge than a precautionary measure and a deterrent for those who were coming in droves from the GTA at the time. Let’s hope that this never has to happen to this extreme again.

So, because of what happened in Orillia at the beginning of COVID in regards to the boat launches and parking, we went to other towns and cities to fish and spent our money on gas, groceries, tackle, ice for coolers, snacks, and lodging there. 

It actually seemed like it was cheaper and less of a hassle to do that.

In other cities and towns that we went to, we were quite happy to pay a $10 fee to use the boat launch. It was appropriate and acceptable that the boat launch fee would also help ensure some safety for our vehicle and trailer when we parked for free nearby.

Yes, free! 

The parking is usually free when you pay to use the boat launches elsewhere, and that’s the way it should be!

We live in Ramara. 

We spend a lot of money in any given week in Orillia at stores, buying gas, groceries, and more. We have worked and played a lot of our lifetime in Orillia. It is just not acceptable to us that surrounding township residents should also have to pay to park when using the boat launches in Orillia. 

 We feel that it should be free to us and to neighbouring townships.

There is only one public launch in Ramara big enough to accommodate a deep hulled boat in Ramara, and it’s in Washago, which is a fair distance to Lake Simcoe, where we do most of our fishing.

Maybe Orillia council should take some time to do some research.

I encourage you all to visit cities and towns along Georgian Bay, Lake Ontario and others that have public boat launches and see just how things are run properly, smoothly and appropriately.

Please take the time to research thoroughly. Ask questions and speak with residents and staff at the boat launches. Find out how the boat launches are run, how launch fees are used, and see how the ample parking works.

Maybe Orillia council should consider investing some money into making ample parking close by for those who use the boat launches? 

Include fish cleaning stations and a “staging area” where people can better prepare their boats and gear ahead of launching. 

Please construct washrooms with flush toilets and running water. 

Please provide receptacles for used fishing line.

Please provide proper garbage and recycling receptacles.

And only allow the parking for vehicles attached to trailers and that have been previously paid for before launching. No overnight parking. No trailers without  vehicles attached. No lone vehicles in designated boat launch parking areas.

And please make the parking for trailers and vehicles attached only at the boat launch area, not far away. The parking needs to be close to the launch in order to speed up the launching process, so the person launching the boat can get back to it quickly.

Then make an over-flow parking lot.

This all makes a lot of sense — and dollars in the long run.

Maybe there might be a grant for this?

And if there was, doesn’t that mean they can be used for free by everyone?

Was a grant used in the past to construct the boat launches in Orillia in the past?

Maybe council should also consider hiring security guards and/or putting up security cameras.

Maybe hire people to run the boat launches instead of visitors having to use the confusing apps on phones to use launches and park. It is important to note that not everyone has a cellphone and not everyone banks online. 

Maybe, more anglers will come to the Perch Festival if they actually have a place to launch smoothly, and park nearby.  Let’s also remember — they will spend lots of money in Orillia should they feel comfortable and well equipped with all those things in place.

Orillia council, I hope that you will explore these options and reconsider your pending decision to make people pay for parking while they are enjoying the lakes. These potential changes could be beneficial for everyone.

I do have other ideas and suggestions, too. Our local lakes are something we all should be able to enjoy affordably — without taking the fun out of it!

On behalf of anglers and boaters, I thank you Orillia council for considering these suggestions.

Christina Hucker